Well, we have finally finished the coop enough that I decided it was time to tell you a bit about our summer project.
We’re pretty pleased with how it turned out, considering that it’s made almost entirely out of leftovers from our house. The only things that we had to buy were a few extra roofing shingles, a couple of sheets of plywood for the roof, a gallon of exterior paint, and wire mesh for the run.
Still a few things left to do, but mostly done.
The work involved was a little more than we anticipated (and most of it through record summer temperatures), but since almost every room in the house looks out on to the coop, we wanted it to be something that we enjoyed looking at.
While we didn’t have any actual building plans, we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted it to look like. Using Google Sketchup
, we played with things like the wall height, roof pitch, and window/door placement until we ended up with something that we were happy with.
My husband hadn’t done a lot of framing before, but he did an amazing job of turning our ideas into an actual structure.
Some of the features that we planned for are:
- we placed the coop in the sunniest part of the yard so that the run will have a chance to dry out in between winter rain storms.
- passive solar heating – the coop is oriented exactly east/west, so the overhang shades the windows on the south side during the hottest part of the summer, but lets the light in when the sun is lower in the sky during the fall and winter months to help keep the chickies warm (also, because of this positioning, the coop itself creates a nice shady patch in the adjoining run).
- the coop and run are directly in front of the vegetable garden, with an extra door into the back of the coop so that all of that precious chicken manure can be scooped out right where we need it.
- there’s an additional pop door on the south side where we will eventually dock a chicken tractor (next year’s project)
- we wired for overhead and exterior lights, as well as an outlet for either a fan or heat lamp, depending on the season.
- we’re going to install gutters which will lead to rain barrels on the back side of the coop in order to reduce our dependence on well water for irrigation.
- we allowed for lots of natural ventilation. There’s a ridge vent in the roof, as well as soffit and gable vents, which will eventually have small doors so we can close them up during cold snaps.
Insulation and back door into the garden.
As mentioned, we used almost entirely recycled materials, many of which were given to us. My mom and stepfather are renovating their house (which was built in 1909) to turn it into a B&B, so we were able to take a lot of things that would have otherwise gone to the dump, including the insulation in the photo above. We insulated the ceiling using rock wool and styrofoam sheets that were left over from insulating our basement slab.
The interior walls are covered with shiplap that was torn up from the floors and walls of my mom’s house (beautiful one foot wide, 100 year old fir boards). They will eventually get a coat of paint to make them easier to clean, but right now they are a weathered grey, which gives the coop a rustic, barnlike feel.
The exterior is covered with fiber cement lap siding, which we painted to match the house. I built the ramps out of cedar decking cut-offs.
This is the day that we let the girls out into the run for the first time. They were pretty sure that we were up to no good…
My favorite Speckled Sussex was the first one out of the coop.
…but it wasn’t long before they were outside and charging around the run.
I’m still amazed at the instincts possessed by these domesticated birds. They kept a constant watch on the sky, and would run inside at the first sign of an aerial attack (it was usually just an airplane – our property is on a flight path).
You can see in the above photo that the bottom of the coop is enclosed with 1/2″ wire mesh, which was given to us by our neighbor. It’s a much heavier gauge than hardware cloth, and will hopefully keep anything from digging under and making a home under the coop.
Pippin – our beautiful Dark Brahma
The run is about 5 1/2 feet tall, so the kids and I can stand in there comfortably. The top four feet are covered with 2″ square wire mesh, and the bottom 18″ with 3/4″ hardware cloth. The hardware cloth is actually 3 feet wide, but we buried the bottom 18″ underground to prevent anything from digging under the fence. While we don’t have many of the usual predators here (not even raccoons or skunks), with the public trail running past our property, there is some concern about dogs.
This second gate from the garden into the run will make it easier for me to bring them garden scraps. We also want to be able to let them into the garden from time to time for a change of scenery and to help clean things up at the end of the growing season.
I fashioned their roosts out of cedar decking and 1 x 4 cedar trim (which had been pre-stained). I sealed the cedar with the same non-toxic linseed oil product
that we used on our butcher block countertops.
The east facing window provides them with a sunny spot to bask and preen in during the early morning hours…
…and I built a perch under it so that they can take in the view during the day. It’s easy to tell who is at the top of the pecking order by observing who gets to sleep here at night – it’s clearly their favorite spot.
I’m in a rush to build some nest boxes, as their faces are starting to turn red, which I understand is a sign that they’re getting ready to lay. I’m thinking about building a “community” box as opposed to individual nests, as I keep hearing that they will all use the same one anyway. Any thoughts on this from those of you with chickens? My girls are a cuddly bunch, so I can’t see it being a problem.
After all of that hard work, I think my favorite part of the coop project is the stepping stone that my daughter made to go in front of it. It makes me smile whenever I see it.
Now if only they would start laying!